… Perhaps one should begin with what these campers believe in. They believe in critical and creative thinking. They believe in mutual respect and living ethically. They believe in arts and crafts. But here in a wooded national park south of Manassas, under shade trees and American flags and the mosquito haze of a swimming hole, they do not believe in God.
Camp Quest Chesapeake is a summer camp for atheists. Or the children of atheists…
“I don’t have any freethinker friends at home,” says Jake Monsky, thoughtfully. He’s 11, with blond hair damp from spending his free time at the lake. At some of his friends’ houses, the families pray before dinner. Jake says he bows his head because he doesn’t want to be rude. He likes these friends a lot, but sometimes, he thinks that if he told his friends that he isn’t religious, “then they might not be my friends anymore.”
Awesome article. Great publicity. And, dammit, someone find Jake a local freethinking friend!
Reporter Monica Hesse does a nice job of capturing what goes on at camp and how the attendees feel about it.
Now… about the headline:
Camp Quest is atheists’ answer to Bible school
I know Hesse isn’t responsible for it, but it’s completely misleading.
Camp Quest isn’t our version of Bible school. At a Bible school, the goal is to indoctrinate kids with Christian teachings. The goal is to teach children what to think.
At Camp Quest, the goal is to teach kids how to think critically for themselves. That’s an important distinction.
Some of them may be atheists already. Some of them may not know where they stand on religious issues. Some of them may even believe in a god. While I’m sure the latter group is small (if it’s there at all), no one at the camp is trying to “convert” kids to atheism. But the headline suggests otherwise.
So do the captions that go with the beautiful pictures:
Camp Quest: Summer playtime for atheists
Camp Quest, for atheist and agnostic children, has opened its first mid-Atlantic chapter…
Richard Dawkins‘ plan to raise my consciousness is working. If they called a little kid a “Muslim child,” we should all be offended because the kid probably doesn’t really understand Islam yet. Maybe s/he will in the future, but not yet. The same thinking applies here. Not all those children at camp are atheists or agnostics. Many are, but some haven’t made up their minds yet, and that’s fine. We don’t need to label them before they’ve decided. It’s far more accurate to call them the children of atheists or agnostics.
It’s hard to complain about any of this when the publicity is so good, but the reporter did a nice job to make all this clear. Too bad that wasn’t communicated to the people in charge of the rest of the package.
(Thanks to Ubi Dubium for the link!)